The smallest porpoise in the ocean is also the most
endangered marine mammal in the world. Living solely
in the Gulf of California, vaquitas -- whose name means
"sea cow" in Spanish -- are accidentally drowning in the
gill nets local fishers deploy for fish and shrimp. Now
there are reportedly only 97 of them left, according to
a recent report, and unless the Mexican government
eliminates gill-net fishing in its only habitat, vaquitas
will disappear entirely by 2018.
Even more deadly than fish and shrimping nets are
totoaba nets. Totoaba -- another endangered fish hunted
in the same area -- are prized for their gall bladders,
which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, and
fishing season for them starts this month in the Sea of
Cortez. "If there is fishing for totoaba this September, the vaquita might disappear this year," Omar Vidal
of the World Wildlife Fund told the Associated Press.
"Totoaba nets are the best device to catch vaquitas."
Mexico has worked to police totoaba fishing, placing
restrictions in the Colorado River delta, but experts say
the financial incentives for fishermen to poach and sell
totoaba is too great. "It's a brutal incentive," Lorenzo
Rojas, a marine biologist in Mexico, told the Guardian.
"They can earn in a few catches what they would normally
earn in a year."
The Ocean Conservancy believes the U.S. government
should work with Mexico to ban the fishing nets
that threaten the vaquita's future, and it has created
a petition for people to sign to urge both countries to
take action. Sign it at http://act.oceanconservancy.org/site/R?i=N28_6ib08xItuEwmX801xA